On Wednesday, August 02, the president stood before the nation and introduced an immigration bill, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE), sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.
The intent of the bill is to reduce legal immigration into the United States by 41%, and increase it to 50% after ten years. This would be accomplished by limiting the issuing of green cards for legal residency, and placing restrictions on American citizens and legal residents bringing into the country family members, and return legal immigration to a merit based system.
The bill’s intent, aside from changes to the system, would curtail the influx of immigrants so as to stabilize and maintain national identity, assimilation, support economic growth and the American worker, and enhance traditional values. It would also create a merit based system that would take into account factors such as skill, education and familiarity of the English language.
In his speech, the president stated “This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens”. Mr. Trump went on to add “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first, and” For decades, the United States has operated a very low-skilled immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low-wage immigrants. This policy has placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources. Among those hit the hardest in recent years have been immigrants and, very importantly, minority workers, competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals.”
This undertaking comes on the heels of Mr. Trump’s executive orders since taking office that sought to halt immigration from certain Muslim countries, limiting the influx of refugees, increasing illegal immigrant arrests, and building a wall across the southern border. The bill has languished in the Congress without any co-sponsors, until President Trump gave it his support. It has its detractors and has come under attack from advocacy groups and both sides of the political aisle; its passage at this time is uncertain.
What you might now ask does any of this has to do with the lady in the harbor. When discussing this new immigration plan at a press briefing, presidential senior policy advisor Stephen Miller found himself in a heated exchange with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta who introduced into the discussion the Statue of Liberty and what it symbolizes. It was Mr. Acosta’s contention that the Emma Lazarus poem, which reads in part “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, was meant as an open door policy.
The Statue of Liberty, “Liberty enlightening the world”, was a gift from France to the American people, dedicated on October 28, 1886; she was a representation of the Roman Goddess Libertas. France would build the statue and America would build the pedestal upon which she stands. The Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” was inscribed on a bronze plaque and placed inside the pedestal in 1903. It was not conceived as an original part of the statue until it was added years later.
One can entertain from the words of the poem that the essential meaning of the statue, and the reason it was built, was as a symbol of a nation who welcomed all peoples from different shores to enter through the “golden door”, and that her torch of liberty was a beacon lighting the way. It is my contention, however, that had the Lazarus poem not been included, and not part of the story or meaning of the statue- perhaps a plaque with just “Lady Liberty” etched in bronze- then she probably would not be associated with immigrants flooding American shores.
What also may be happening is that immigration is being interwoven, or confused, with the plight of the refugee. Immigrants are given the opportunity to enter America for economic and the country’s self- interest, whereas refugees are admitted out of compassion and humane reasons.
In the latter nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, immigrants from mainly Europe journeyed across the sea to America, to become new citizens in the land of hopes and dreams. Upon entering New York harbor one of the first images to come into view was that of the Statue of Liberty; she stood like a welcoming symbol of their new land. Most passed though Ellis Island and were subjected to rigorous medical testing, and were questioned as to whether they had employment waiting or relatives willing to give them a place to live.
Keep in mind, the population back then, according to the census, was approximately in 63 million in 1890 and 76 million in 1900. Today in 2017 we have reached the 325,000,000 mark and the borders in my estimation are bulging at the seams. Perhaps what we should consider doing is removing the torch and replace it with a big stop sign.